Afropop Classic October 29, 2020
The Story of Baobab
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Fifty years ago, the nephew of the president of Senegal was putting together a band for his new upscale Dakar nightclub, and he recruited a handful of musicians who are still together today. Combining elements from their homes across West Africa with lush Afro-Cuban arrangements, Orchestra Baobab became one of the continent's top bands.

Follow the group from the rough recordings made in Club Baobab, through their breakup and verdant 21st century revival, enjoying their mastery of everything from slow folk ballads to wah-pedal heavy psychedelia. Members Rudy Gomis, Barthelemy Attisso, Thierno Koite, Balla Sidibe talk about life in this truly one-of-a-kind group, the specialists in all styles, half-a-century old and still evolving: the mighty Orchestra Baobab.

Produced by Ben Richmond.

Songs featured on this week's program:

Transcript

AFROPOP WORLDWIDE: “The Story of Baobab”

WINDOW: “M1-Orchestra Baobab-Issa Soul” :00-:25 by Orchestra Baobab “Issa Soul” La Belle Epoque 1973-76 Vol. 2. Syllart Production– 000990, barcode: 3700409809903 (Play until :25, bring in Georges, let the song play until 4:00, lower it again.

BED: “Issa Soul” :25-

HELLO! I’M GEORGES COLLINET AND TODAY ON A VERY SPECIAL EDITION OF AFROPOP WORLDWIDE FROM PRX, WE’RE GOING TO BE HEARING—AND HEARING FROM—“THE MIGHTY ORCHESTRA BAOBAB.”

THE SENEGALESE SPECIALISTS-IN-ALL-STYLES ARE CELEBRATING THEIR FIFTIETH YEAR IN 2020, SO TODAY WE’RE LOOKING BACK TO THEIR ORIGINS AS A DAKAR NIGHTCLUB BAND, THEIR BREAK UP AND REUNION AND THEIR INCREDIBLE AMOUNTS OF VITALE MUSIC THAT IT IS STILL EVOLVING TODAY.

MUSIC: “Issa Soul” ~:56 (when Georges stops)-4:00

THAT WAS “ISSA SOUL” FROM THE MIGHTY ORCHESTRA BAOBAB. LET’S KICK THINGS OFF AS THE BAND USED TO, BACK AT CLUB BAOBAB. THIS IS THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB PLAYING “ON VERRA CA.”

MUSIC:M2-On Verra Ca.mp4” by Orchestra Baobab, on Specialist in All Styles World Circuit– WCD 064 Barcode: 769233006424 (send to BED down at 4:18)

TO TELL THE HISTORY OF THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB, YOU HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE DAWN OF SENEGAL’S INDEPENDENCE IN 1960. AT THE TIME, THE CAPITAL DAKAR WAS FULL OF POSSIBILITY, BUT IT DIDN’T HAVE MUCH OF ITS OWN RECORDED MUSIC YET. THE LITTLE MONEY TO BE FOUND BEING A MUSICIAN WAS EARNED IN NIGHTCLUBS THAT SERVED DAKAR’S ELITE, AND THAT CROWD WAS CRAZY FOR CUBAN MUSIC.

MUSIC: “M3-Peanut Vendor” song: “El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor)” by Don Azpiazu And His Havana Casino Orchestra, on Don Azpiazu, Harlequin– HQ CD 10, Barcode: 008637201029

(Lets it play a verse. Bed at 1:01).

CUBAN MUSIC ENJOYED WORLDWIDE POPULARITY IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY. POWERFUL RADIO TRANSMITTERS IN FRENCH- AND BELGIAN-OCCUPIED CONGO BROADCASTED LATIN MUSIC SELECTIONS OF SON CUBANO, AS WELL AS JAZZ AND POP, ACROSS THE AFRICAN CONTINENT. AND MUSICIANS, PERHAPS RECOGNIZING SOMETHING FAMILIAR IN THE AFRO-CUBAN RHYTHMS OR PERHAPS WITH JUST KEEN EARS FOR A TUNE, STARTED TO PUT THEIR OWN SPIN ON IT.

YOU CAN HEAR THE CUBAN INFLUENCE, ALONG WITH NEW ELECTRIC GUITARS, IN CONGOLESE MUSIC, FOR INSTANCE ON THIS CHA-CHA FROM THE FIFTIES BY THE CONGOLESE GROUP OK JAZZ.

CUT: Peanut Vendor

MUSIC: “M4-Tcha Tcha Tcha Mi Amor” by Brazzos Et Ok Jazz, Congo Revolution (Revolutionary And Evolutionary Sounds From The Two Congos 1955-62) Soul Jazz Records– SJR LP437, Barcode: 5 026328 004372 (Start from the beginning, BED at 1:30 or so)

AS SENEGAL’S MUSIC INDUSTRY WAS BORN, THE MONEY WAS FOUND PLAYING AFRO-CUBAN MUSIC AT A HANDFUL OF BARS, INCLUDING THE FAMOUS MIAMI CLUB. THE MIAMI’S HOUSE BAND, THE STAR BAND, PLAYED AFRO-CUBAN MUSIC AND INCUBATED THE NAMES THAT WOULD CHANGE SENEGAL’S MUSICAL LEGACY FOREVER.

CUT Tcha Tcha

THIS IS THE STAR BAND’S VERSION OF THE OLD DUO LOS COMPARDRES TUNE “GUAJIRA VEN,” RECORDED IN DAKAR THE MID-SEVENTIES.

MUSIC: “M5-Guajira Ven” (composed by Cuba’s Duo Los Compardres Star Band De Dakar, Ostinato Records– OSTLP006, Barcode: 8 43563 11421 6 (:00-Bed at 2:44)

WHEN ASPIRING CLUB OWNER ADRIEN SENGHOR—WHO’S UNCLE HAPPENED TO BE SENEGAL’S FIRST PRESIDENT—WANTED TO OPEN A SWANKY NEW SPOT IN THE OLD EUROPEAN QUARTER, WITH A BAR BUILT AROUND THE TRUNK OF A MIGHTY BAOBAB TREE, HE RECRUITED A TITO-PUENTE STYLE BANDLEADER-SINGER-TIMBALE-PLAYER NAMED BALLA SIDIBE, WHO, AS WILL BECOME CLEAR, HAD A STYLE ALL HIS OWN.

WINDOW: MUSIC: “M6-Guajira Ven” by Orchestra Baobab Guajira Ven Demo, World Circuit, ASIN: B07SYBZ6VB (Start at 1:21, bed at 1:26)

THEY THEN ENTICED MEMBERS OF THE STAR BAND TO JOIN AT CLUB BAOBAB. HERE’S THE 21ST CENTURY LINE-UP OF THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB, ATTEMPTING “GUAJIRA VEN,” STRAIGHT FROM THEIR OLD STAR BAND REPERTOIRE.

MUSIC: Guajira Ven, until 3:30, then Bed under ACTY

ACTY: ACTY-1-BA.wav:

Les patrons du Baobab ont voulu des musiciens de talent. Donc ils sont venus me chercher au Baobab au Star Band en même temps que Balla Sidibé et Gomis. Et nous avons été les trois premiers membres de l'orchestre Star Band à aller au Baobab. Et à nous trois, on a rejoint trois autres musiciens: Baro N’Diaye qui est le chef d'orchestre et deux autres musiciens. On était six. On avait commencé à 6 et on a joué au Baobab.

VO: VO-1-Banning

The patrons of Club Baobab wanted talented musicians, so they sought me from the Star Band at the same time as they recruited Balla Sidibé and Gomis. And we were the first three members of the Star Band to leave for Baobab. And we three joined three other musicians, Baro N’Diaya, the bandleader and two others. There were six of us at the founding of Baobab.

WINDOW: MUSIC: Bed “M7-Ndeleng Ndeleng.m4a” :00-3:58 by Orchestra Baobab, on Classic Titles: Orchestra Baobab, Cantos – 079.0024.020, [PIAS]‎– 079.0024.020, Syllart Productions‎– 079.0024.020, Barcode: 5 413356 064827 (:00-Bed at :30)

BED: “Ndeleng Ndeleng” :30-

THEIR SIX-MAN CORE WAS LED BY PERCUSSIONIST AND SINGER BALLA SIDIBÉ AND ISSA CISSOKHO ON TENOR SAXOPHONE. GUITARIST BARTHELEMY ATISSO ARRANGED THE SONGS WITH A STYLE HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY CUBAN SON AND CHARANGA.

MUSIC: “Ndeleng Ndeleng” (When Georges stops until 2:27), then BED Ndeleng under this and ACTY

BUT BY COMBINING CASAMANCE HARMONIES AND DRUMMING FROM THE SOUTH OF SENEGAL, AND LEAD SINGER LAYE MBOUP’S WOLOF SINGING FROM NORTHERN SENEGAL, THIS AFRO-CUBAN COMBO WAS ALSO A FINE, PAN-SENEGALESE BAND. MEMBERS OF ORCHESTRA BAOBAB, HOWEVER, ARE QUICK TO POINT OUT THAT THEY WERE ALWAYS MORE THAN JUST THOSE TWO THINGS.

ACTY: (Three in a row under Ben VO)

ACTY-2-Rudy.wav: Moi je me dis toujours que l’orchestre Baobab, c’est un orchestre panafricain.

ACTY-3-Rudy.wav Tout au début, on jouait de la salsa, des tango, de la rumba. On jouait beaucoup de musique européene, plus de la musique sénégalaise moderne où on n'utilisait pas l griot. Mais petit à petit, Adrien Senghor (?) qui était le propriétaire de la boîte nous donnait des conseils… des genre de conseils nous disant:  “il faut faire ceci, il faut fair cela.” On a subi ça.

ACTY-4-Rudy.wav: Alors quand c'est panafricain, tu as beaucoup de nationalités là dedans qui sont passes par là. Chacun a laissé sa trace dans l’orchestre du Baobab.  C'est pour cela que je dis souvent que l’orchestre, il est panafricain. Jusqu'à present, d’ailleurs…Vous voyez… Thierno, ses parents sont d'origine malienne. Moi, mes parents sont d’origine de la Guinée-Bissau. Balla, aussi, je crois qu'il est du Mali. Issa, il était d'origine malienne. Barthelemy, d'origine togolaise. On avait des Ghanéens. On a Peter Udo, qui jouait la clarinette. Il est nigérien ou Ghanéens…quelque chose comme ça. On a eu des Nigérians, des Ghanéens et Benjeloum. Il est Mauritanien. Il est marocain. Donc y’avait tout ça dans cet orchestre là.

VO: VO-2-Ben

Me, I always say that Orchestra Baobab is a pan-African orchestra. At the beginning, we played salsa, tango, rumba—we played a lot of European music, more than modern Senegalese music that didn’t use a griot. But little by little, Adrien Senghor, who ran the bar, gave us advice, telling us “you gotta do this, you gotta try that.”

When you’re pan-African, you have a lot of nationalities in there. That why I often say we’re pan-African. You see, Thierno, his parents are from Mali. Me, my parents are from Guinea-Bissau. Balla, I believe he and Issa are from Malian origins. Bathelemy is from Togo, we have Ghanaians, Peter Udo who plays clarinet. Latfi Ben jeloum, he is Mauritanian and Moroccan.

Window, :00-:37 of “M8-Yen Saay.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Classic Titles: Orchestra Baobab: Cantos – 079.0024.020, [PIAS]‎– 079.0024.020, Syllart Productions‎– 079.0024.020, Barcode: 5 413356 064827

Bed: “Yen Saay” :37 onward

AND GUITARIST BARTHOLOMEY ATTISSO AGREES.

ACTY:

ACTY-5-BA.wav: Oui, le Baobab est formé de musiciens de diverses origines. C'est pour ça que chacun apporte son, ce qui est de son origine. Et nous faisons un mélange, un métissage, si vous voulez. Ce qui a donné des variétés que nous avons maintenant…

VO: VO-3-Banning.wav

Yes, Baobab is made of musicians from diverse origins. Each one brings something of his origins. And we make a melange, a hybrid if you will. That’s what gives us the variety we have now.

MUSIC: “M9-Coumba.m4a” from beginning. “Coumba” by Orchestra Baobab, on Pirate’s Choice World Circuit– WCD063 Barcode: 769233006325

Bed: “Coumba” from Solo at 3:23

THE BAND HONED THEIR TECHNIQUES AT LEAST THREE NIGHTS A WEEK UNTIL TWO IN THE MORNING AT CLUB BAOBAB, AND MEMBERS COULD ALSO BE FOUND PLAYING ELSEWHERE AROUND DAKAR.

THE RECORDINGS FROM THE CLUB DURING THE SEVENTIES DON’T HAVE THE CLARITY OF THEIR TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ALBUMS, BUT THEY HAVE THE EXCITEMENT OF A BAND FINDING ITS FOOTING AND OPERATING AT THE PEAK OF ITS POWERS.

INFLUENCES FROM CONGO, GUINEA-CONAKRY, AS WELL AS PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS AND WAH-WAH PEDALS FROM THE ROCK WORLD, AND ECHOING REVERB OVER REGGAE UPBEATS, WERE BUILT INTO GRAND ARRANGEMENTS.

GUITAR AND SAXOPHONE TRADED SOLOS BETWEEN VERSES FROM ONE OF THEIR MAIN LEAD SINGERS, WHO SANG IN SPANISH, FRENCH, WOLOF AND CREOLES.

MEMBERS OF BAOBAB PROUDLY STATE THAT THEY WERE THE TOP ORCHESTRA. BUT PLAYING AROUND DAKAR DURING THE SAME ERA, THERE WAS ALSO IDRISSA DIOP WITH LE SAHEL DE DAKAR, AND THE STAR BAND STILL AT THE MIAMI CLUB, FEATURING THE YOUNG VOCALIST YOUSSOU NDOUR, WHO WOULD SOON LEAVE THE GROUP TO FORM ETOILE DE DAKAR.

WE ASKED MEMBERS OF BAOBAB IF THERE WAS ANY RIVALRY BETWEEN BANDS IN THIS HOT MUSIC SCENE, BUT EVERYONE AGREED IF THERE WAS, IT WAS A FIGHT AMONG FANS. “LIKE GUYS IN A BAR FIGHTING OVER FOOTBALL TEAMS” RUDY GOMIS SAID.

AMONG MUSICIANS, THEIRNO KOUYATE EXPLAINED, THERE WAS A FEELING OF KINSHIP.

ACTY

ACTY-6-Theirno.wav: Nous étions des amis parce que chaque fois qu'on finissait de jouer, on allait se retrouver quelque part. Ca s’appelait le Quartier Latin. Et tout le monde qui finissait de jouer…On se rassemblait et on était là à causer, à boire un verre. Et puis bon, à manger de la viande grillée. C'était vraiment cordial.

MUSICIANS WOULD FINISH THEIR SETS AROUND TOWN AT TWO, THEN ALL MEET UP AT A BAR CALLED “THE LATIN QUARTER” FOR DRINKS AND GRILLED MEAT. THEIRNO CALLED IT VERY CORDIAL.

AFTER LEAVING THAT BAR AT THREE OR FOUR, BAOBAB GUITARIST BARTHELEMY ATTISSO WOULD HURRY HOME FOR A QUICK SLEEP, BEFORE GETTING UP AT SEVEN O’ CLOCK FOR WORK AND LAW SCHOOL.

FADE Coumba

WINDOW: “M10-Sey.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng World Circuit– WCD092, Barcode: 5 056032 308268

AFTER THE BREAK, WE’LL HEAR BARTHELEMY ATTISSO’S UNIQUE PATH TO THE GUITAR, THE BAND’S BREAK-UP AND REUNION AND THE UNUSUAL PEOPLE CREDITED FOR ORCHESTRA BAOBAB’S STEADY RISE IN POPULARITY. VISIT AFROPOP DOT ORG FOR PLAYLISTS AND MORE FROM THE BAND.

I’M GEORGES COLLINET, YOU’RE LISTENING TO AFROPOP WORLDWIDE FROM PRX.

BREAK: 20-second-break “Sey” 1:48 onward

WINDOW:“M11-Sutukan.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Specialist in All Styles World Circuit– WCD 064 Barcode: 769233006424 (Bed around 1:08 for this Georges, then bring it back up?)

SENEGAL’S ORCHESTRA BAOBAB ARE FAMOUSLY “SPECIALISTS IN ALL STYLES.” RUDY GOMIS SAID THAT EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE was “SENEGALESE,” THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB DIDN’T WANT THEIR SOUND TO REPRESENT ONLY THEIR HOME. FOR EXAMPLE, THEY NEVER USED THE SABAR DRUMS THAT POWER MBALAX, WHICH WOULD BECOME THE COUNTRY’S BEST KNOWN MUSICAL EXPORT.

BAOBAB MEMBERS ARE PROUD THAT EVERYONE CAN FIND SOMETHING OF HIMSELF IN THE MUSIC. LIKE THIS VERSION OF THE OLD MANDINKA FOLK TUNE, KNOWN THROUGHOUT WEST AFRICA, “SUTUKAN.”

MUSIC: “Sutukan” can fade at 4:30, or let that last minute play.

WINDOW/BED: “M11.1-N'Dongoy Daara.mp3” by Orchestra Baobab, on Specialist in All Styles World Circuit– WCD 064 Barcode: 769233006424 (Start dialogue at :20, continue to play as bed)

FOR ROCK FANS, AND EVERYONE ELSE, ONE THING TO LOVE ABOUT ORCHESTRA BAOBAB IS THE GUITAR, CHIEFLY THE WORK OF BATHELEMY ATISSO. FROM SLOW, AFRO-CUBAN BALLADS TO THE BAND’S DANCEABLE PSYCHEDELIC TRACKS, ATTISSO’S SOLOS ARE A HIGHLIGHT ACROSS THE BAND’S DISCOGRAPHY.

RHYTHM GUITARIST LATFI BEN JALOUM FEELS ATTISSO—THE BANDS FREQUENT ARRANGER AND OCCASIONAL SONGWRITER—EMBODIES THEIR “SPECIALIST IN ALL STYLES” MENTALITY.

ACTY:

ACTY-7-LATFI

LATFI SAYS, ATTISSO HAS MADE A SYNTHESIS OF ALL THE MUSIC HE HAS PLAYED ON THE GUITAR, FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, FROM ALL THE GUITARISTS FROM THE 1930S INTO THE 21ST CENTURY. HE’S WORKED ON THE STYLES OF NEARLY ALL GUITARISTS TO EMERGE IN THAT TIME, WHETHER IT’S CHARLIE CHRISTIAN, DJANGO REINHARDT OR WHOEVER. MANY GUITARISTS HAVE INFLUENCED ATTISSO. HE GIVES BAOBAB THAT TOUCH OF JAZZ.

THERE’S NO DOUBT, BARTHELEMY IS SPECIAL. BUT FOR SOMEONE WHO PLAYS THE GUITAR SO DISTINCTIVELY, TO HEAR THE MAN HIMSELF TELL IT, HE’S ONLY A MUSICIAN DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCE.

ACTY

ACTY-8-BA.wav

Je suis allé à Dakar en 1966 pour continuer mes études et c'est là que j'ai découvert…

[00:05:23] [BE] Pas découvert, mais que j'ai été contraint de faire de la musique parce qu’il fallait trouver une source de revenus pour financer mes études. J'étais arrivé à Dakar avec une profession. J’étais enseignant, mais il s’est trouvé que le fait d'enseigner dans la journée ne cadrait pas bien avec mes études qui aussi devaient avoir lieu dans la journée. Il fallait trouver une stratégie. Donc, la stratégie était de travailler plutôt la nuit, de consacrer la journée aux études. Et comme il fallait trouver un travail de nuit… Après avoir réfléchi mûrement, je me suis dit: bon, je ne vais pas trouver mieux que de jouer en boîte de nuit parce que j'ai vu des fonctionnaires qui jouaient dans des orchestres, comme le Star Band.. et qui avait une boîte “Le Miami” et qui, le jour, allait au boulot…d’autres qui travaillent à la banque, d'autre qui travaillent dans les administrations, l'autre dans les assurances. Ils travaillaient la nuit, la musique et le jour… Alors j'ai dit pourquoi pas? Ce serait la seule…La seule voie pour que je puisse concilier et les études et le travail.

VO: VO-4-Banning.wav

I came to Dakar in 1966 to continue my studies and there I discovered—not discovered, but was forced—to be a musician, because I needed to find a source of revenue to pay for my studies. I came to Dakar with a job, but I was studying and I found that I needed to study during the day and found I couldn’t do both during the day. I needed to come up with a strategy—I was going to work at night.

After maturely thinking it over, I thought “I’m not going to find any work better than playing in a night club!” Because I had seen officials who played in orchestras like the Star Band and at the Miami club. During the day, they did their jobs at the bank or worked in administrations, or insurance, but they worked as musicians at night. And I thought “why not? That’s the only way I can reconcile my studies and having to work.”

ACTY-9-BA.wav

J'ai commencé directement avec la guitare parce que je me suis dit: il faut… j’aimais la guitare. J’aimais la guitare. Quand j'écoutais les musiciens zaïrois et les musiciens ghanéens jouer du Alef (?) avec des accords…tout ça… Franko, avec sa guitare, Rochereau, etc. Je me suis dit c'est ça…j’étais vraiment, vraiment, vraiment attiré par la guitare et je souhaitais savoir jouer un peu. Mais par la suite, je suis devenu professionnel, par la force des choses. Donc, j'ai acheté un livre et une guitare et je me suis mis à étudier la guitare à la maison et ça m'a pris quelques mois…

ACTY-10-BA.wav

Absolument. Parce qu'on ne peut pas faire plusieurs choses à la fois. Donc, il faut être méthodique. Je me suis mis à jouer la guitare. Je me suis dit: “bon, combien de temps ça va me prendre? Un an, deux ans?

VO: VO-5-Banning.wav

I started directly with the guitar, because I thought, “Well, I love the guitar.” When I heard musicians from Zaire, and Ghana playing, Franco with his guitar, Rochereau etc. I thought, I’m just very attracted to the guitar, and I want to learn to play a little. But what happened is, things forced me to become a professional. But, I bought a book and a guitar and set about studying guitar at home. It took me a few months...You can’t do several things at the same time, so I had to be methodical. I set about learning the guitar. I thought “how long can it take me? A year? Two?”

WINDOW: “M12-Gnawou.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Bamba, Stern's Africa– STCD 3003 Barcode: 5017742300324 3:10 into guitar solo, until 4:04

BED: “Gnawou” 4:04

ACTY-11-BA.wav

Bien. Lorsque j'ai commencé par jouer vraiment dans un orchestre, c'est d'abord grâce à des déplacements… enfin, j'allais visiter des orchestres, de petits orchestres qui me passaient de temps en temps la guitare pour essayer de voir si je peux être en mesure de remplacer un guitariste un jour ou bien trouver un poste. Finalement, je me suis mis à jouer de la musique élémentaire, des accompagnements élémentaires. J'étais pas soliste j’étais accompagnateur. Et par la suite, lorsque j'ai trouvé… je suis devenu soliste, c'était parce que la boîte à laquelle je me suis adressé, le patron m'a dit: “Je ne veux pas d'accompagnateur. Je veux plutôt un soliste donc tu vas jouer solo. Et c'était le Star Band de Dakar. La boîte s'appelait Miami.

ACTY-12-BA.wav

Tu dois jouer du solo. Je me suis dis: OK

Je vais copier l'improvisation d’autres personnes, d'autres musiciens, et je vais les mettre dans la musique que je joue. C'est comme ça que j'ai commencé. Et petit à petit, j'ai écouté un peu, travaillé un peu, étudié beaucoup de guitaristes. J'ai fini par créer mon propre style. Parmi les musiciens que j'écoutais, des guitaristes comme Django Reinhardt…comme West Montgomery…des guitaristes comme Carlos Santana. Il y avait l'organiste Jimmy Smith, qui faisait aussi de belles harmonies. J'écoutais aussi les saxophonistes comme Manu Dibango et les guitaristes locaux. Il y avait des guitaristes locaux que j'écoutais, les guitaristes guinéens, sénégalais. Finalement, je suis arrivé à former un mélange de toutes ces connaissances qui font aujourd'hui mon style à moi…qui peut évoluer demain…

VO: VO-6-Banning.wav

I started to play in an orchestra, at first just little shifts. I’d visit the smaller orchestras and from time to time they’d pass me a guitar to see if I could replace a guitarist or if they could find a place for me. Finally I got down how to play just the basics, the elementary accompanying parts. I wasn’t a soloist, just an accompanist...but I had to become a soloist. The night club owner told me “I don’t need an accompanist, I need a solosit.” That was at the Miami Club for the Star Band. They told me “You need to play a solo” and I said, “ok!”

I copied the improvisations of other people, other musicians, and set it in the music of the day. That’s how I started. Little by little, working a little studying lots of guitarists, I finally created my own style. Among the musicians I listen to: guitarists like Django Reinhardt, like Wes Montgomery and Carlos Santana. There was an organist Jimmy Smith who did such beautiful harmonies. I also listened to saxophonists like Manu Dibango, and local guitarists and Guineans, and Senegalese. Finally I started to make a melange of styles all my own.

M13-Dée Moo Wóor.mp3” by Orchestra Baobab, on Specialist in All Styles World Circuit– WCD 064 Barcode: 769233006424

BED: Dee Moo Woor at 1:20 (after first chorus)

THE BAND LEFT CLUB BAOBAB IN 1977 TO SEEK THEIR FREEDOM, AS RUDY GOMIS PUTS IT. BUT ON THEIR TOUR OF FRANCE, THEY HAD TROUBLE REACHING AN AUDIENCE BEYOND THE AFRICANS LIVING THERE. THE TOUR AND RECORDING SESSIONS ENDED UP BEING A LESS-THAN-PROFITABLE EXPERIENCE. BY THE EARLY EIGHTIES, THE BAND FOUND THEMSELVES OVERTAKEN BY FELLOW STAR-BAND ALUM YOUSSOU NDOUR.

WINDOW: “M14-ImmigrésBitim Rew.mp3” by Youssou N'Dour & Le Super Etoile De Dakar-Immigrés, Earthworks‎– CDEWV 10, Barcode: 5 012981 501020 (BED AT 1:00, (CUT around 2:53)

TAKING LATIN INFLUENCE, SENEGALESE SABAR AND TALKING DRUMS, AND WOLOF RHYTHMS, NDOUR TURNED MBALAX INTO SENEGAL’S NATIONAL POPULAR DANCE MUSIC.

MEMBERS OF ORCHESTRA BAOBAB WOULD GO ON TO PLAY IN MBALAX BANDS, AND THEY ALL RESPECT YOUSSOU NDOUR VERY MUCH. LIKEWISE NDOUR CO-PRODUCED ORCHESTRA BAOBAB’S COME-BACK RECORD SPECIALIST IN ALL STYLES. BUT AS THEY SAID IN 2002, THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB HAD ITS OWN MUSICAL PHILOSOPHY.

THE GROUP ENDED UP BREAKING UP. SOME GOT OTHER GIGS, BARTHELEMY RETURNED TO TOGO AND FINALLY ACHIEVED HIS YOUTHFUL DREAM OF PRACTICING LAW. BUT THE WORLD WASN’T DONE WITH THIS BAND YET.

CUT Immigres around 2:53

MUSIC: “M15-Werente Serigne.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Pirate’s Choice World Circuit– WCD063 Barcode: 769233006325 (Go to BED at 1:40)

THE BAND STOPPED PLAYING TOGETHER, BUT THE MUSIC LIVED. RUDY GOMIS EXPLAINS.

ACTY

ACTY-13-Rudy.wav

VO: VO-7-Ben.wav

But what is interesting is that during these years when Baobab was not playing… There are extraordinary things that happen in life. Even though we were not playing, the radio stations in our country kept playing Baobab songs, as if to say, “Okay, the band is on a break, but they’ll be back.” I must thank the people who pirated our songs, because if the songs had not been pirated and on the market, we wouldn’t be here today. The influence that we have now among youth, from time to time I meet musicians who say, for example, “I must tell you that I began to play the guitar by learning things from Barthelemy.” Or, “I really like Mountaga, his way of playing the tumba, or Charlie with his bass, or one of the singers.”

ACTY-14-Rudy.wav

RUDY SAID THEY HAD FOUND ANOTHER SYSTEM OF PROMOTION. THE SYSTEM WAS TO LET PEOPLE PIRATE YOUR SONGS, SIT BACK, DO NOTHING AND SPEND NOTHING. THEN WHEN IT STARTS TO WORK, YOU COME BACK.

IN 1989, NICK GOLD, THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF WORLD CIRCUIT, THE UK LABEL KNOWN BEST FOR PRODUCING THE BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB, GOT TOGETHER WITH THE BAND TO REISSUE SOME LOCALLY RELEASED 1982 ORCHESTRA BAOBAB RECORDINGS. THEY CALLED THE ALBUM PIRATE’S CHOICE.

TRENDS WERE COMING AROUND AGAIN, AND DEMAND FOR THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB WAS GROWING.

MORE REISSUES AND MORE CRITICAL ACCLAIM OVER THE NINETIES FINALLY ENCOURAGED THE BAND TO GET BACK TOGETHER. ON MAY 6, 2001, THEY TOOK THE STAGE IN LONDON AND BEGAN A SECOND LIFE. AS BALLA SIDIBE REFLECTED IN 2002:

BED: “M16-Douga.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng World Circuit– WCD092, Barcode: 5 056032 308268 (Start right under this ACTY?)

ACTY-15-Balla.wav:

“SO WHAT CAN I SAY ABOUT BAOBAB? IN SOME WAYS IT WAS GOOD TO BE PIRATED. IT MADE US KNOWN, MANY OF OUR SONGS WERE PLAYED BY THE YOUNGER GENERATION.” SIDIBE JOKED “WE MAY NOT BE GODS, BUT WE BECAME DEMI-GODS”

THE BAND HADN’T RELEASED ANY NEW MUSIC IN 14 YEARS, BUT THEY HAD SOMEHOW COME BACK BIGGER THAN EVER.

ACTY-16-Rudy.wav:

VO: VO-8-Ben.wav

The first time we were in London, we said, “What are we going to play that people will remember?” So we put together a repertoire and we went into the hall. We began the first song, and during the introduction, everyone began to clap. We were like, “What is happening? They know the song.” So, you know, it’s just one song, so we played, and played and played...by the end, it seemed like they knew all the songs. So while we were on break, someone was working for us.

WINDOW of Douga

THE BAND SOUNDED FRESH, BUT NOT ALL THE MEMBERS HAD BEEN CAREFULLY HONING THEIR CRAFT DURING THE BREAK. BARTHELEMY ATTISSO HAD PUT MUSIC BEHIND HIM, AND WAS RUNNING A LAW OFFICE IN TOGO.

BUT LIKE IN A HEIST MOVIE, WHEN HE GOT THE CALL THAT THE OLD CREW WAS GETTING BACK TOGETHER, HE KNEW WHAT HE HAD TO DO.

BED: “M-17-El Son Te Llama.mp3” by Orchestra Baobab, on Specialist in All Styles World Circuit– WCD 064 Barcode: 769233006424

ACTY-17-BA.wav

Il me dit qu'on a besoin de moi, qu'ils ont besoin de moi pour compléter le groupe. Je ne pouvais pas dire: “je ne peux pas”. En fait, je ne comprends pas que je puisse leur dire je ne peux pas venir parce que j'ai mon cabinet, je n'ai pas le temps.  Alors je lui ai dit tout de suite: “Il n'y a pas de problème, je vais venir”.

VO: VO-9-Banning

Balla Sidibe reached me and said, they were going to revive Orchestra Baobab. He said they needed me, that they needed me to complete the group. I knew I couldn’t say “I can’t do it.” He wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t tell them, “I can’t come because of my law office, I don’t have time.” So I just told them right away, “No problem. I’m coming.”

HE WENT HOME AND GOT OUT HIS GUITAR FROM THE CLOSET FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER A DECADE. BUT TO HIS HORROR, ATTISSO FOUND THAT IT HAD BEEN SO LONG, HIS FINGERS DIDN’T SEEM TO REMEMBER HOW TO PLAY.

ACTY-18-BA.wav

Même j'ai eu peur. Ça me faisait mal d'avoir perdu tout ce que Dieu m'a donné comme possibilité, comme talent, de perdre ça comme ça. Alors, j'ai posé la question à ma femme: “Voilà, mes camarades ont besoin de moi pour faire l’orchestre du Baobab mais je n'arrive plus à jouer. J'ai perdu le doigté et elle me dit: “mais non, si tu veux le faire, si tu veux, tu peux retrouver ton doigté. Il suffit que tu t'y mettes. Je sais que tu es un homme de volonté. Tu vas y aller.” Alors cette phrase m'a donné beaucoup de courage

VO: VO-10-Banning.wav

I was scared. I had done badly to have lost all that God gave me, like the possibility, the talent—I had just lost it. I went to my wife and said “My friends need me for Orchestra Baobab but I’ve lost my fingers! I can’t play anymore.” And she told me, “No, if you want to do it, if you want to, you can re-find your fingers. That’s all you need. You’re a man of will, you’re going to do it. And that phrase gave me the courage.

Window: El Son Te Ilama ideally during his crazy guitar solo around 2:20

FOR TWO OR THREE WEEKS, ATTISSO PRACTICED AFTER DINNER UNTIL THREE OR FOUR IN THE MORNING, LIKE IN THE OLD DAYS, AND SURE ENOUGH HIS FINGERS CAME BACK.

Fade El Son

MUSIC: M18-Jiin Ma Jiin Ma.m4a by Orchestra Baobab, on Specialist in All Styles World Circuit– WCD 064 Barcode: 769233006424 (Bed during first verse at :38)

ACTY-19-BA.wav

Un premier vrai concert qui était un test à Londres au Barbican Center. Et vraiment, Dieu nous a aidé. Les choses se sont bien passées. La technique était bien en place. Les réglages, la sonorisation, les moteurs, le matériel, tout était…et nous avons fait un travail impeccable. Je dis bien impeccable, parce que tous les journaux en ont parlé.

ACTY-20-BA.wav

Aujourd'hui, on peut considérer que le Baobab est vraiment ressuscité… pas ressucité… Il n’était pas mort. Le Baobab ne meurt pas. Il dort.

VO: VO-11-Banning.wav

The first real concert was a test in London at the Barbican Center and truly, God was helping us. Things went so well. The technical aspects were in place, the levels, the sound, the movements, the material, everything..we did impeccable work. And I only say impeccable because all the journalists said it.

Today, you can consider Orchestra Baobab truly resuscitated, well not resuscitated, it wasn’t dead. Baobab didn’t die. It was sleeping. And now it’s woken up!

MUSIC Jiin Ma Jiin Ma (Fade after 4:26 or so)

WINDOW/BED:M19-Cabral.m4a” by Orchestra Baobab, on Classic Titles: Orchestra Baobab Cantos – 079.0024.020, [PIAS]‎– 079.0024.020, Syllart Productions‎– 079.0024.020, Barcode: 5 413356 064827 (Let it play throughout, with rises where noted?) (Bed ~:37?)

WE SPOKE TO THEIRNO KOUYATE AND RUDY GOMIS FROM DAKAR WHERE THEY’RE RIDING OUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

MEMBERS OF THE BAND HAVE LEFT, BARTHELEMY HAS AGAIN RETURNED TO HIS LAW PRACTICE. SOME HAVE PASSED AWAY. IN 2016, LONGTIME VOCALIST NDIOUGA DIENG DIED, AND THE BAND DEDICATED ITS 2017 ALBUM TO HIS MEMORY. IN JULY OF THIS YEAR, THE BAND WAS SHOCKED TO LOSE ITS CO-FOUNDER BALLA SIDIBLE, WHO WAS MOURNED ACROSS THE MUSIC WORLD.

THE BAND SAID THEY HAD ALL BEEN WORKING ON NEW MATERIAL TOGETHER JUST A FEW DAYS BEFORE HE DIED.

BUT AFTER 50 YEARS, THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB CONTINUES, THEY PLAN TO RESUME TOURING AND PLAYING TO ADORING FESTIVAL CROWDS. THEIR PAN AFRICAN SOUND IS STILL EVOLVING, BRINGING IN A KORA PLAYER.

Window: Cabral

THE BAND HAS BEEN DECORATED BY THE SENEGALESE STATE WITH THE ORDER OF THE LION. THEY’VE BEEN FLOWN TO MEET PRESIDENTS. THEY’VE PLAYED ACROSS THE WORLD, AND INSPIRED THE GENERATIONS THAT HAVE FOLLOWED THEM. BALLA SIDIBE EXPLAINS:

ACTY:

ACTY-21-Balla.wav

THE MUSICIANS OF BAOBAB ARE HIGHLY RESPECTED IN SENEGAL. WHEN ONE OF THESE MUSICIANS SHOWS UP, EVEN THE YOUNGEST OF US, PEOPLE SAY “AH, HERE IS ONE OF THE GREATS OF BAOBAB.” THE CHILDREN, THE YOUTH SAY “I LOVE BAOBAB BECAUSE OF MY FATHER, HE HAS ALL THEIR RECORDS. NO ONE TOUCHES BAOBAB.”

YOU GOT THAT RIGHT, BALLA.

Window: Cabral

FUNDING FOR AFROPOP WORLDWIDE COMES FROM THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, WHICH BELIEVES A GREAT NATION DESERVES GREAT ART, AND FROM PRX AFFILIATE STATIONS AROUND THE U.S. AND THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING YOUR STATION.

THANKS TO ANNE TAKAHASHI (TALK-AH-HAWSHY) AND BANNING EYRE FOR THEIR HELP WITH THIS PROGRAM. VISIT AFROPOP.ORG FOR A SELECTION OF FAVORITE SONGS OF THE ORCHESTRA BAOBAB, EXPLAINED BY THE BAND THEMSELVES. YOU CAN ALSO FIND US ON FACEBOOK AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER AT “AFROPOPWW.” MY AFROPOP PARTNER IS SEAN BARLOW. SEAN PRODUCES OUR PROGRAM FOR WORLD MUSIC PRODUCTIONS. RESEARCH AND PRODUCTION FOR THIS PROGRAM BY BEN RICHMOND. AND, BE SURE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCAST, INCLUDING RADIO PROGRAMS AND OUR AFROPOP CLOSEUP PODCAST SERIES.

JOIN US NEXT WEEK FOR ANOTHER EDITION OF AFROPOP WORLDWIDE. OUR CHIEF AUDIO ENGINEER IS MICHAEL JONES. THIS PROGRAM WAS MIXED AT STUDIO 44 IN BROOKLYN BY MICHAEL JONES/ZUBIN HENSLER. ADDITIONAL ENGINEERING BY MIKE CAPLAN/GREG HARTMAN AND STEPHANIE LEBOW. BANNING EYRE AND CC SMITH EDIT OUR WEBSITE, AFROPOP.ORG. OUR DIRECTOR OF NEW MEDIA IS BEN RICHMOND. AND I’M GEORGES COLLINET.

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